Cut From The City?

Maybe you heard the piece on NPR on Wednesday about pay cuts at the High Museum of Art? Here’s my short recap: “Everyone at the museum’s getting a small, 5-7% pay cut, with the worst of it given to martyr the head of the museum. Oh, except for some people who are taking a 100% pay cut or something. Whatever.”

But I’ll admit that I’m just bitter. My wife was one of the people laid off from the museum on Monday. The story, though, will be that the High brass bravely took pay cuts. [This is where I cut some honest criticism for the sake of politeness.]

Here’s what the actual NPR piece sounded like:

“Five percent for the majority of the staff, six percent for the [department directors], and seven percent for myself.”

High Museum of Art Announces $1.4 M in Budget Cuts

ATLANTA, February 25, 2009 – The High Museum of Art announced a series of budget cuts today, including across the board pay cuts and a 7% reduction of its staff. These reductions, combined with previous cost-cutting measures, will result in $1.4 million dollars in savings and will reduce the operating budget for fiscal year 2009 to $23.7M. These measures will enable the museum to continue to provide high quality and meaningful art and educational experiences to the community.

The High has instituted a series of pay cuts across the board, starting with the Director’s office. Michael Shapiro will take a 7% pay cut and other Director-level employees will take a 6% pay cut. All other employees will take a 5% pay cut. These cuts will extend through May 31, 2009. Beginning June 1 and extending through fiscal year 2010, salaries will be reinstated but employees will be required to take 2.6 weeks of unpaid leave. The staff reductions have been achieved through hiring freezes, redistribution of staff responsibilities and the elimination of five full-time positions and three temporary positions.

“As with many non-profit institutions both in Atlanta and across the country, the High Museum of Art has been affected by the economic downturn, experiencing shortfalls in income we receive through donations and membership as well as losses to our endowment,” said Michael E. Shapiro, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green Jr. Director. “These are challenging times and few decisions are harder than one that involves staff reductions. However, the High needs to take these prudent steps in order to balance its budget and ensure that we can continue our role as the leading art museum serving the Southeast.”

“We are gratified by the tremendous response and record-breaking attendance for our ‘First Emperor’ exhibition; however, admission is a small piece of the museum’s overall budget. For the past fifteen years, the High has operated in the black and we will continue to operate without a deficit to ensure the institution’s long term health and stability,” Shapiro continued. “We are continuing to monitor our budgets and the economy and in looking towards fiscal year 2010, we are conscious that potential declines in corporate sponsorship, individual giving, membership, and losses to our endowment may require us to make additional reductions.”

These cuts follow a series of previous budget reductions which have been implemented throughout the past year. Working across departments, the High has taken a number of measures to trim expenses, including examining and adjusting exhibition schedules, instituting a hiring freeze and a ban on non-essential travel, reducing energy use, and strategically trimming programming without impacting the core visitor experience.

High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art, founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association, is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States. With more than 11,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of nineteenth and twentieth century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists and is distinguished as the only major museum in North America to have a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field of folk and self-taught art. The High’s Media Arts department produces acclaimed annual film series and festivals of foreign, independent and classic cinema. In November 2005, the High opened three new buildings by architect Renzo Piano that more than doubled the Museum’s size, creating a vibrant “village for the arts” at the Woodruff Arts Center in midtown Atlanta. For more information about the High, please visit

The Woodruff Arts Center
The Woodruff Arts Center is ranked among the top four arts centers in the nation. A not-for-profit center for performing and visual arts, its campus comprises the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, Young Audiences and the 14th Street Playhouse.

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